Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What The Storm Blew In

We've had more rain here in Northern California than any other time that I can remember.

Our rivers are full, our lakes are filling to capacity, and yet I'm thinking that the State of California will limit water to the farmers this summer anyway. Instead, the State will probably send more water to Los Angeles for their swimming pools and car washes. Some folks have different priorities.

Here in Glencoe, we have had it wet, cold, white, warm, cold, wet, and now white again. But it was the winds the other night that had me concerned. The wind roared through these mountains like a runaway freight train all night long like never before. And when I say roar, I mean roar.

The last time that I'd heard such wind was almost 30 years ago and I was staying at a house on the coast in a small town called Princeton. The house faced the sea and it took the full force of the wind coming off the ocean.

During the night the storm got worse, and like an angry man bent on destruction it tore one of it's shutters loose. The wind slammed the shutter hard against the window a few time until it sprayed the living room with broken glass.

It sounded a lot like an angry wind the other night. A constant roar was only broken now and then by the sound of something being thrown around on our deck or a tree breaking in the back of our home. I didn't mind the chairs on the deck, but I'm always concerned about a tree falling into our home.

My wife has had enough of these storms that keep blowing through. The rain has gotten to her. She is tired of going through puddles and in some places ankle deep water when she goes to feed our horses in the morning. She wants it to stop. She has had enough.

For me, I want more rain. I want our lakes and water reservoirs to reach historic highs instead of the historic lows that they have been at for the last 15 to 20 years. I'm tired of the State always declaring droughts because they failed to save enough water for California.

The winds came on Friday, but on Saturday came more snow. But since I decided to open the American Legion even though we're normally closed, I was having to bartend with another local man who wanted to learn how to tend bar there so that he could volunteer more at the post.

A week ago, I opened during that storm. And it was lucky that I did, because a newcomer to the area who didn't have four wheel drive or chains got stuck and walked to the Legion. When she walked in she was cold and tired and beside herself.

Then a local gal by the name of Dorothy, who's family has been around here since the early 1900's, came in right after her.  Immediately upon finding out that she had troubles, Dorothy offered to take her home. The newcomer said she was on her way to pick up her kids who were stranded at their school.

Dorothy didn't hem and haw, and instead said, "No problem. Let's go get them," even though they were 8 miles away in another town.

Later I found out that she high-centered her truck on the way back from dropping off the other gal and her kids. It took her all night to get her truck off there and home.

There is a special place in Heaven for people like Dorothy. She is who she is and there's nothing fake about her. She helps everyone and is there when others are in need.

That was a week ago, and this Saturday another snow storm was due.

Knowing there was another storm coming in, I honestly didn't think we'd get anyone in the front door. But to my surprise, I was wrong. We had a few friends and neighbors who didn't want to sit home and instead wanted to join others while it snowed outside.

And we were sitting there laughing about something or other, when in walks a stranger.

He just appeared out of the blue. No on had ever seen him before, and the few people who were there all looked at each other as if asking one another if anyone knew him. No one did. And if you're wondering why it was so strange to see a stranger walk in, well you have to know this area a little.

Now this is a friendly place, but it was odd to say the least for someone to land in Glencoe in the middle of a heck of a snow storm. You see Highway 26 is not traveled as much as other roads in our area. It is definitely out of the way.

The stranger said he was up in these parts visiting a friend when he got lost, and he was looking for the Highway to take him to Modesto. And why he wanted to go to Modesto? Well no one asked, because the more he talked the more we became a little confused about him.

You see, sitting at the bar, he first said he was from San Diego. Then after that he said that he lived in Orange County. And at one point, he sort of lost me because I thought he said he was staying in Modesto. Yet here he was.

And in the middle of telling us where he was from, he stood up and started looking at the old military stuff that we have on the walls of our Legion Hall. He was intrigued with some of the old stuff - especially the World War II infantry gear.

At one point he called me over to ask me about a machete that the Marine Corps issued during World War II. Then he said that there was something that he wanted to show me.

And yes, he made it sound a little mysterious. No kidding.

Heck, I did not know what to think. Like I said, no one knew the man. And yes, he seemed a little disoriented to say the least.  Heck, first he said he was from one place then he said he was from another, and after that he decides that he wanted to show me something from his car. What was I to think?

When I asked what it was that he wanted me to see? He answered, "Don't worry, I wouldn't bring a gun in here!" Then he turned and left to go out to his truck.

I moved over to lean against the back of the bar by the register. I watched him through the window behind the register as he went to his truck. There are a lot of strange people that live in the big cities and you can never tell about them.

Lately it seems that more and more people from the cities are moving to this area. Some are pretty strange people. Many coming up here are not always the friendliest people. Many these days are bringing their tempers, their road rage, their surly attitudes, and their ideas of how we should be living.

Yes, a lot of city people are coming to the country. Some to stay and some to visit. Some with good intentions and others with an agenda. Those who are here visiting are usually the nicer of the lot. Many of the ones moving here to stay come with an agenda. And yes, even if they might not have had one at first - they seem to acquire one after being here a while.

Our area is changing because of new people moving in and wanting to change this area. It is something about people that has always amazed me. I saw it happen to Hawaii during the 1960s and 70s, and in Washington State during the late 1980s and early 90s. I've watched people do it over and over again in big ways and small.

First they visit somewhere and decide that they love that place. Then they decide that they love that place so much that they would love to live there one day. Then they sell out and move to that place they fell in love with.

And why did they do it? Love of course. They loved the weather, or the laid back attitude there. Maybe it was the friendly like minded people, the great schools, the lack of traffic, and the happy small town feel of the place.

But it always seems to happen, sooner or later, those very same people who moved from somewhere like say the big cities of the San Francisco Bay Area will want to change where they moved to. One day, for some unknown reason, they will wake up with a desire to try to change it into the very place that they escaped from.

And yes, it's very obvious to watch happen. They are the ones that are fairly rude in the grocery stores in Jackson. They are the ones looking down their nose at the way people live in the mountains. They don't decide to drive like everyone else or be one of those happy small town people that drew them here.

Instead they keep their city driving habits like tailgating, using their horn, cutting in front of people, and rushing around in a hurry. They do the same thing they did in the city and never really give themselves enough time to get anywhere. They're the ones that pass us on corners and can't seem to understand the concepts of rural living.

But worse, they expect us to change and accommodate their attitudes. And yes, they work to get on the school boards and local governments with a "not so hidden" agenda. Some are only here for a year before wanting to give their input on how everyone in the area should live.

And yes, they are more then willing to tell you their ideas to change things. Of course, they are surprised that others don't share their desire to turn our area into another San Jose or San Francisco.

It is a tribute to their stupidity that they don't understand that this is not a fine wine and dining area like Napa Valley. This is not the slopes of Heavenly in Lake Tahoe, and it sure isn't the trendiness of Vail Colorado. We don't have the Sundance Film Festival here. You don't see Limos or hear rap music here.

Many have a hard time believing that we like the way life is here. Some city people might see us as naive, uneducated, unsophisticated, and they can't believe that we wouldn't want to live the way they do. And we don't.

Of course there are those others who relocate to an area and blend in with the community. They assimilate and accept the life they've decided to live in the place they've decided to live it. They ease into things and leave their type "A" personalities behind them.

They are the ones that folks up here hope become our new neighbors. They've left their city ways in the past. They aren't pretentious and don't expect you, or the area, to change to suit them. Talking to them, you know if they'd fit or not. And unlike those who don't want to assimilate into the area, they fit.

Some do and some don't. My watching the stranger from the window was my way of being better safe than sorry. Did he fit or was he some sort of developer with an eye on trying to change things here?

Heck, since no one knew him, we didn't know if he was some nut from the city or harmless. He just seemed like he didn't know where he needed to be. So yes, from the register window which does overlook the parking lot, I watched him pick through the backseat of his truck looking for something.

And yes, as I was watching him, I felt everyone at the bar watch me at the window. Soon the folks sitting at the bar were curious as well and started asking me stuff like, "What's he doing now?"

I shrugged my shoulders and sort of laughed that I didn't know. But as sure as there is a morning, he sure looked determined to find whatever he was looking for. No matter how hard it snowed on him in the process.

Then I saw the man grab up some papers and finally start back toward the building. I told the folks at the bar to relax that he wasn't some crazed gunmen from the city. He was probably just bringing in some road maps so that we can show him how to get to Modesto from here.

When the stranger walked in, the first thought that I had was "you poor guy, you're freezing." And yes he was cold and it did surprise me a little that after I offered him something to warm him up that he didn't want it. I offered hot coffee, but instead he only wanted water.

Right then it seemed that he was very anxious to have me see what he had. For some reason, it was important to him that I see what he brought in. And after he handed me one, I then realized that it wasn't a map.

Instead he laid a couple of pistol targets on the bar. Targets that he shot while at his friend's property. Targets that he was obviously pretty proud of.

I looked at both of the targets and asked how far away was he, and what kind of gun was he shooting? Then I looked at the groups and asked him what caliber was he shooting?

And yes, he answered all my questions and he seemed like he had relaxed a little. It was obviously his idea of Group Therapy!

He then reached in his pocket to show me what kind of bullets he was shooting. He told me that he kept it close when on a road trip like this. He then said, "You know, people in the city would probably think that I'm strange for wanting to show you my targets. I was only keeping them to show someone."

I told him that it was great that he brought them in, although I did think he was going to freeze out there trying to find them. I also told him that I liked the groups that he shot and that he should feel good about his shooting. He smiled.

When I folded them and reached out to hand them back to him. He said that I can throw them away now. He said he only kept them to show someone who would appreciate it. And I did.

After a while he seemed to relax and we swapped a joke or two, and I made sure he had directions to Modesto. He said how much he liked our Legion Hall. Then after being there for less than an hour, he got up and left.

A few of the folks at the bar chuckled and said that I made a friend. One said that the stranger seemed a little stranger than most, but I didn't think he was that strange really. Heck, he was lost during a heavy snow and needed directions to get where he wanted to go.

Before he left, I did tell him to come back some time when he's in the area. I think if he hadn't been lost and a bit anxious, he'd probably fit in around here OK. And who knows, maybe if the stranger ever gets lost again we'll find him back here one day? Who knows?

The snow got worse right after he left, and the wind started to pick up hard again. From the window I saw the snow plow come through a few times, and I couldn't help but wonder what else the storm would blow in.



Story by Tom Correa

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Tom